Evangelistic ministries during the 1996 Olympics will have more in common than a desire to share the good news of a risen Christ: They will share a theme and witnessing tools influenced largely by Southern Baptists' Atlanta International Ministries (AIM '96) and the Home Mission Board.
The theme "More Than Gold" has been adopted by a consortium of denominations and para-church organizations as the basis for evangelistic ministries related to the Olympics. And the HMB's "Interactive Pocket Guide '96" — an evangelistic booklet that also contains Olympic records and names of previous gold medal winners — is destined to be the principle witnessing tool for many evangelical organizations.
"It's just really neat to see how this has snowballed," said Toby Frost, HMB associate director of mass evangelism and chairman of the AIM '96 evangelism committee. "We believe that the 'More Than Gold' slogan and the array of products that has developed using that slogan gives Christians a kind of united front in Atlanta and other venues without sacrificing our denominational distinctives," he said.
Frost said the consortium of organizations — the Olympic Outreach Partnership — was formed out of a larger group called Sports Outreach America to seek ways to coordinate evangelistic ministry efforts. In their first meeting in 1994, Frost said, they discussed possible themes such as "Go For the Gold" or "Champions For Christ."
After the meeting, the AIM evangelism committee settled on the "More Than Gold" theme and began work on designing the Olympic lapel pin and tract with that theme. The partnership at its next meeting decided to go with the same theme.
The pin and pocket guide will be the principle evangelistic tools used by AIM '96 volunteers and others working in association with the Olympics. The pin is important because of the enormous popularity of pin trading during the Olympics. Almost every organization, sponsor or sport associated with the Olympics now creates its own pin, and many people collect as many of the pins as possible through trading, Frost said.
"Pin trading is one of the ways that relationships are made during the Olympics, and we wanted to use that," Frost said. "In Barcelona, a huge park right there in the middle of town was designated for pin trading."
The pin — and the logo it bears — is designed as a simple witnessing tool in the same way "power bands" with five different colors of beads have been used to share the gospel for years.
The same means of presenting the gospel is used in the Interactive Pocket Guide '96. The 32-page booklet doesn't look like a traditional tract because it contains Olympic records for selected events, as well as winning countries for all events in 1992. But it also contains a complete gospel presentation.
Frost said the idea was to provide an item people would use and refer to while still including an uncompromising gospel presentation. "Most Christian materials start where God is," he said. "What I wanted to do with this piece of material is start with where the people were and move them to where the Lord wants them to be. We start on their turf with the Olympic records … and when they get into it, it's 'more than gold.'"
Also included is a response card that can be mailed to the Home Mission Board indicating whether a person has made a profession of faith or is interested in learning more. Further materials will be sent to respondents, and the AIM committee has made a commitment to refer everyone in the world to a local church who responds.
Training will be made available through the Home Mission Board in use of both the pin and the pocket guide. The board made an initial order of three million pocket guides, and already hundreds of thousands have been purchased by other denominations. The Plymouth Brethren, for example, purchased 150,000 of the tracts before they were even warehoused, Frost said.
The impact of the booklets will go far beyond the actual Olympics. Frost noted two Baptist associations in Indiana plan to canvass their entire area with the booklets. One association in Florida plans to distribute them in their area during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, providing the guide as both a service to the people and as a means of sharing the gospel. Others are ordering them for their regular visitation programs.
"I would encourage every church … (to use these materials) … for their church's outreach, because the Olympics is not only about Atlanta, it's about the world," Frost said. "And the Olympics is going to be the best bridge to share Christ."
Other denominations also are producing their own specialized materials with the "More Than Gold" theme. Child Evangelism Fellowship, for instance, is producing a Vacation Bible School curriculum; Discovery House publishers is doing a version of its Sports Spectrum magazine with the "More Than Gold" theme; and the International Bible Society plans to produce an Olympics version of its sports New Testament including feature stories on Christian athletes. AIM '96 will be using that New Testament extensively as well in its ministries.
Another item that will be used by AIM is a special version of the "Slip Disc," a flying disc produced by a South Carolina ministry that includes a gospel presentation on the back. The final AIM version, when it is ready, will include the "More Than Gold" logo on the front.
Linda Johnson, executive director of AIM '96, said the disc will be useful with youth, as well as at such venues as beach volleyball. Also, she said, the disc is an item that can be distributed in some areas where traditional published materials might not be allowed.
All the items, in addition to being used by individual churches, will be used by AIM volunteers in numerous ministries throughout the Olympics. Examples of AIM ministries include hospitality tents, performance teams, witnessing teams, information booths. Materials also will be made available at hotels and other tourist sites.